I have always been told that if you believe in something enough, you can make it happen. Through hard work, determination, and a "failure is not an option" attitude, anything is possible. I can tell you first hand this is true, I just lived it in Colorado.
On September 18 I picked up Pup in Columbus at 12:15am. We loaded the truck and it was off to the mountains of Colorado. The map called for a 22 hour drive to Grand Junction and then another 2 ½ to the trailhead. Running on Mountain Dew and Starbucks we drove straight through and arrived at our destination at 2:30am Colorado time. Stopped the truck, set my watch alarm for 4am, and grabbed 1 ½ hours of much needed sleep. Alarm sounded and we were up, shouldering our 45lb packs we turned into the darkness heading for elk.
A day had passed and the 2nd morning arrived. As we awoke and were packing up camp a bugle came from above. After a strategic 2 hour climb we closed the distance to 80 yards only to have a swirling wind and keen nose put a complete halt to our efforts. Elk 1, Shoe & Pup 0.
As we sat there and discussed our approach and what we could have done different, a second bull approached, a beautiful 5x5. With the 5x5 covering ground I made a quick move while Pup stayed put watching from above. Later Pup told me as I moved down the mountain trying to gain a position on the bull he simply disappeared. You wonder how an 800-900lb animal can just vanish into thin air.....let me assure you they do. Just as quick as he was there he was gone. Game over, Elk 2, Shoe & Pup 0.
Fast forward 2 days through more failed attempts (Elk 5, Shoe & Pup 0), lots of miles, and even more elevation gain/loss up and down the mountains. After chasing a bull, we had made our way to the top of a canyon wall where we set up camp for night. That night I drifted asleep listening to bugling bulls all around me. As I lay there listening, I try to pinpoint their location for the morning.
Alarm sounds 5am and we’re up. Spark the lighter and the esbit stove comes alive to heat up my morning treat, 8oz of instant coffee. Today we decide to leave camp and pack only with us the necessity items, 3 granola bars, water bladder, knife, headlamp, and bow. Today we’re mobile, light and fast. As we discuss plans for the day a bull sounds off in the bottom, exactly where I heard a bull the night before. After a short discussion we decide to go after him.
In order to make time, we elected to stay on top and work the oak brush. With each step comes a better opportunity to key in on his exact location. The greater distance we cover the louder the bugle. At 1 mile we near a cliff and a decision had to be made. We can keep our elevation and approach from the top or drop to the bottom. After looking at the terrain and testing the wind, we decided the safer bet was to drop to the bottom. Off the rim we went trying to cover as much ground as possible and close the distance before he stopped bugling.
Making it to the bottom we switched gears and cautiously trailed the bull. Each time he would bugle would tell us his location and we made a move. We would cover as much ground as we could until we thought we were in the zone and then stop to listen. The bull would bugle, give us his location and we were off again. After another mile we thought we had him pegged and the last move came. We stopped to set up. I was moving in front of pup at about 20 yards to get in position when I heard the bugle. He was behind and up on us.
As I turned to move to another position I spotted him. He was up above and moving away from us at about 60 yards. Pup hit hard with a bugle and that was all it took. On a dime he turned, swung around, and started down the mountain to us. As the bull moved I moved, until I found myself sitting right next to Pup in the only clear opening available getting ready the moment I had been waiting for.
The next few moments were a blur. Quite honestly, the only thing that I really remember is pulling, centering my bubble, and putting the pin(s) on him (shoot an elk at 20 yards and just about every pin you have is in the body). As the bull moved behind the trees I came to full draw. He emerged in the opening, immediately spotted us and stopped. It was too late. I centered the bubble, placed my pins, and hit the release just like I had done 1000 times before at home in the backyard and in the basement. The 100 grain Montec tipped Carbon Express shaft vanished behind the shoulder.
To me, everything happened so fast I couldn’t pick up my arrow flight but Pup saw it all. I looked at him and he looked at me and he told me I had just pin wheeled my first elk. At that moment all of the hard work over the past 3 years came out. All I could do was just sit there with my bow across my lap and cry. Everything I had worked for, every 4am morning run, every ounce of energy I had put in shooting & training had just paid off. I had done it, I had just arrowed my first elk and reached a destination to a journey that I had once thought only a dream. Elk 5, Shoe and Pup 1.
The rest of story is too long and too detailed to write about here. From bear encounters both in the tent and at 5 yards, to packing out (absolutely no exaggeration) well over 100lbs of meat on each of our backs for over 6 ½ miles. The rest of the week we worked hard and came close but did not get a bull for Pup however the journey to Colorado was, just as it was planned to be, epic. I owe much gratitude to Pup and the elk of Colorado, both had given me something that I will carry with me forever.